Not your usual MLK event


On many college campuses, Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration has attracted the same supporters year after year. The faithful few deserve nothing short of a standing ovation for their continued support and commitment to justice, peace, and love. However, programmers are missing an entirely different audience. I’d like to suggest a new approach to your MLK celebration: The MLK Experience!

Many students, faculty, staff, and community members are eager to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, but they have different interests that link their passions with the life and legacy of Dr. King. It is important to cast a wide net, so that everyone can have an opportunity to participate in the celebration. In my experience, I have seen an increase in participation and greater community response, which is paramount to the notion of a “Beloved Community.”

1. Keynote Discussion
Don’t stop at just sponsoring a keynote address. Some of the most powerful self-discoveries occur during the Q&A session at the close of the program. Students are active learners, so it is important to have a keynote discussion to allow students to be engaged. In other words, less keynote and more discussion!

2. Service Learning
When planning your MLK event, consider one of the most important aspects of Dr. King’s life and legacy – service! Schedule a service project before or immediately following your keynote discussion. It is also important to provide debriefing questions following the service project. Invite your keynote speaker to join your students, faculty, and staff in the service learning project.

3. Community Partnerships
“It takes a village to eradicate hate!” It is very important to partner with local businesses, schools, churches, and affinity groups to make your MLK event a success. So many people are eager to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, and they’re looking for ways to merge their mission and vision with your institution.

4. Authentic-self Circles
This is the fun part. Now, let’s sit down in small groups and share the “defining moments” that helped shape our perspective on race relations, human rights, multiculturalism, among others. These discussion groups should include representatives from various constituents and stakeholder on campus, such as faculty, staff, student athletes, affinity groups, fraternities, and sororities.

5. Community Pledge

Now what? Encourage your campus and community to make a pledge to revisit this conversation in the near future. Outline a plan to maintain the energy and passion around these issues. This is a great retention tool for new supporters.

Credit // Author: Leon Williams

Leon Williams charts the course for the advancement of human relations and leadership. In his keynote, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: What Would Dr. King Say?, Leon assumes the persona of Dr. King and reflects on the historical relevance of the nation’s progress. The themes throughout the keynote include strengthening of race relations, empowering historically marginalized individuals and groups, dispelling the myth of a post-racial society, the existence of privilege, and refueling advocates. Learn more about Leon’s inspirational keynotes at